Coushatta is 152 years old

Joe Taylor

Two years ago, Coushatta saw its anniversary come and go without notice. We pause a few minutes here to note its founding in 1871.

In the early 1830s, Captain Henry Shreve began to fulfill a contract to clear the raft from the Red River; shortly afterward, the village of Springville was formed. The logical location of the settlement would have been on the river, the only outlet to the outside world and the only way to receive supplies, but the pervading thought at the time was that “bad vapors” (miasma) were the cause of illness. There was a swamp from the present location of Rivertown Market to the high school, and so the decision was to locate on the first high ground from the river at a place that had numerous freshwater springs (thus the name).

There had been previous attempts to form a new parish due to the difficulty of getting to a parish seat and conducting legal business with the poor roads. Those attempts had failed. Locals reached out to the state senator of Bienville and DeSoto parishes, Marshall Twitchell, a former decorated captain in the Union Army. He was a power player in the Republican Legislature in New Orleans. This time, a resolution to form the new parish of Red River, which took a piece of all the five surrounding parishes to create, was successful in 1871.

The first decision of the new government would be where the parish seat would be. They chose a steamboat stop called Coushatta Chute as that location. There were hundreds of steamboat stops up and down the river, and this one was especially good. Coushatta Bayou, a principal waterway big enough to accommodate travel up it during high water, had flowed into the river here and created a deep and wide site.

At the time of the town of Coushatta’s formation, several businesses located on the river and the stores in the village of Springville moved to the new location.

The town would grow quickly to several hundred people in the next fifty years but encountered several significant fires to its wooden buildings. The worst one occurred in 1918 and virtually burned the entire business section. That calamity and the caving of its sandy riverbanks caused town leaders to abandon the riverfront location and move toward the railroad Mr. Edenborn built in the late 1890s. The railroad had become the new procurement source, putting the steamboats out of business. This time, the business owners would make their businesses out of fire-resistant bricks, and thus, the present line of stores on Hessmer Avenue would emerge.

(Pictured is the beginning of Carroll St in Old Town on the river.)